Welcome back to my total incomes and expenses report, now in its fourth year! In this annual series, I’m as financially naked as I can be – you’ll know how much I earned for the whole of 2019 and what I spent on during the year.
Seriously, I love that I keep such meticulous record of my financial data (even though it’s nowhere near perfect, but perfect is boring and not to mention impossible). I love that I can share this information with you, so you get to see how record-keeping is beneficial in practice.
This article is divided into two big sections: incomes (recorded via a Google spreadsheet) and expenses (recorded via my expense-tracking app). If you’re a regular reader, you should already be familiar with my expense breakdowns anyway – I post them every month.
Income in 2019
My total income in 2019: RM93,995.20, or an average of RM7,832.93 per month. Note: This amount is gross income, not nett profit. Remember, I’m self-employed, so I have business-related expenses.
To be honest, I didn’t know how to best record my 2019 income. There are some straightforward transactions – sponsored posts, ad money, writing jobs, consultation and speaking fees etc – but there are also things like:
- Book order for Money Stories from Malaysians: Volume 1 from MPH Distributors. Technically speaking, they ‘bought’ the books from me to resell in the bookstores, so the five-figure amount I invoiced them is included in the above amount, however it has not been transferred to me yet. I’m a bit worried because I know that unsold books will be sold back to me, and in the end the decision to sell the books in bookstores might even cost me money because I still have to pay them the 5% distributor fee
- Money earned from referrals, which goes straight into various investment platforms, notably Funding Societies and Wahed Invest. Combined, I made ~RM47k in referrals from these two alone, which I did not include in the total income of the year because the money is immediately reinvested. Accountants, should I include this amount in my total income for the year or nah?
Aside from those two major headaches, I’m happy with my 2019 income performance. I had a loose ‘earn RM100k for the year’ goal and although I didn’t achieve it (Idk, did I?), my conscience is clear. I turned down a couple of high-paying work opportunities in 2019 and while losing those income sucked, I’m happy I remained true to my values.
2019 was also the year that I tried my best to balance work/life
balance integration. As much as possible, I made sure to make my work fit my life, instead of the other way around. I had so many amazing life experiences:
- published a book,
- went to Luang Prabang, Perth and Bali with loved ones;
- took trips to Melaka, Genting and Penang;
- got sponsored on a press trip to Estonia;
- went on a writer’s retreat in Ipoh;
- attended various workshops and conferences;
- and worked on new and existing projects.
It was an incredibly memorable, fulfilling year. Thank you for joining me in this ride and helping me stay accountable.
Expenses in 2019
Total expenses in 2019: RM82,376.74 or an average of RM6,864.73 per month
Breakdown of expenses.
From here I can see that my top three expenses make up almost 60% of my total spending! So if I want to cut back on my spending (I do), the efficient way is to drastically cut back here, not penny pinch on the other categories.
Here are my expenses sorted by categories, from highest to lowest:
Breakdown and comments on each expense category
1) Utilities & Rent – RM15,515.55 or RM1,292.96 per month, on average
Considering my rent is RM1200 per month, that means I’m only spending RM92.96 per month on average on electric, aircond and water bills. That’s alright, right? I don’t think I can cut this expense any lower.
2) Business – RM15,262.85 or RM1,271.90 per month, on average
If I earned an average of RM6,864.73 per month, and my business expenses averaged RM1,271.90, then that means my nett profit aka salary per month in 2019 was RM5,592.83.
Things I paid as business expenses in 2019:
- Facebook ads
- Ezoic Premium, an ad-optimisation software
- Book printing (the biggest chunk! 1500 books for RM6600)
- Editing fees for Money Stories from Malaysians Volume 2
- Translation fees to translate Money Stories from Malaysians Volume 1 into Malay
- Voice and speech coaching sessions
- Grammarly Premium
- Domain renewal
- Conference and workshop tickets
- Memberships to organisations
- Writers’ retreat
- And other misc expenses
This is yet another category that I *don’t* want to scale back on, because you need money to make money.
3) Dates/Travel – RM14,881.89 or RM1,240.16 per month, on average
Hmm. Ok fine, numbers don’t lie. As much as I hate to admit it, I guess I was travelling and eating out too much in 2019. Something to scale back in 2020.
Mental note: no more than RM500/month on dates/travel from now on. Make it work.
4) Donations and Gifts – RM7,608.62 or RM634.05 per month, on average
In previous year’s annual report, I made a note to significantly reduce my donations and gifts to max RM1000/month. I guess I achieved that goal.
In 2019, the two biggest chunks (about 40% of total) of my Donations and Gifts were (1) Zakat and (2) money to replace my parents’ broken house gate (split with sister). The rest were birthday presents, wedding gifts, family dinners, souvenirs, things like that.
I’m okay to increase this expense category a little bit. Also there’s something I’ve been meaning to do for a while now: to give my parents monthly spending money. It’s time. In fact I should have done it sooner.
5) Groceries – RM5,943.81 or RM495.32 per month, on average
Simplistically speaking, my cost per homemade meal is just RM4.95. I’m very happy to know that, since I do make an effort to eat healthy and buy quality ingredients 🙂
(How I got that figure: RM495.32 divide by 100 homemade meals per month)
6) Insurance and Medical – RM5,452.62 or RM454.39 per month, on average
RM113.33 and RM53 goes to medical card and personal accident insurance, respectively.
The rest are costs related to new diagnosis of curved spine. I paid a couple thousand for X-ray and chiropractor consultations.
I’ve since stopped the chiro sessions, but looking for insurance-covered options (if any) or cheaper treatment options.
7) Public Transportation – RM4,529.28 or RM377.44 per month, on average
This no-car lifestyle is so cheap! I’m happy to continue paying for LRTs, Grabs and SoCars 😀
8) Misc Needs – RM4,253.23 or RM354.44 per month, on average
Misc Needs is a category for random ‘must pay’ things that don’t really fit elsewhere. I have to pay these, or I’ll either go to jail or my professional life will be jeopardised.
In 2019, the following expenses got logged as Misc Needs:
- Tax payment
- Cat food and cat litter
- Protein powder (maybe I should move this under groceries)
- Replacing home stuff like toilet brush
- Cordless vacuum cleaner
- Buying a new fridge since I poked a hole during defrosting AGAIN
- Stocking up on toiletries and skincare like shower gel, shampoo, sunscreen etc
- Eyebrow threading
- Parking fines
- Watch battery replacement and repair
- Travel adapter
- Credit card service tax
- And other misc stuff
9) Misc Wants – RM4,148.21 or RM345.74 per month, on average
Misc Needs, on the other hand, are random ‘nice to have’ purchases. Not strictly necessary, but I still wanted them
In 2019, the following expenses got logged as Misc Wants:
- Teeth whitening strips
- Shoes, clothes, bags, makeup
- Steam games and controller
- Home decor
- And other random stuff
Is this… an okay amount to spend on what’s essentially vices? How much do you spend on things you want (not need)? Should I maintain, reduce or increase? Idk, let’s see :/
10) Social – RM4,253.23 or RM354.44 per month, on average
I’ve developed some good friendships, so going forward I’m happy to continue spending (within reason) to maintain our relationships. My friends bring a lot of joy and meaning to my life.
11) Food – RM1397.79 or RM116.48 per month, on average
Embarassing expense. This is the food expense that’s NOT part of groceries, dates, travel or social activities. It may be time to admit food delivery is my vice and something I should stop immediately because this expense is completely unnecessary and wasting money!
12) Mobile – RM960 or RM80 per month, on average
My data consumption increased A LOT since I got Netflix (around Sept 2019). I used to consume 30-40GB per month, now its nearer to 75GB per month.
All I can say is, switching to Yoodo was a good financial decision for me. I like tweaking around my data plan, reducing next month’s data quota if I know I’ll be travelling or if Yoodo’s doing free data giveaway (I got free 20GB/month for at least like 3 months).
If you want to try Yoodo out too, get FREE RM 20 when you sign up using my referral link (I get RM20 too).
Conclusion and self-reflection
2017’s savings rate: 39.77%. 2018’s savings rate: -48.95%. 2019’s savings rate: 14.1%
Volatile much? Maybe aim for consistency, Suraya?
Action plan for the year:
- Earn RM100k by end of June 2020. Why not. Never try never know.
- Get sponsors for the RinggitOhRinggit podcast! Get over your fear of rejection Suraya and just do the cold-calling/cold-emailing, anything to get leads and potential sponsors. Capiche?
- Launch and sell books. Please buy Money Stories from Malaysians: Volume 2 when it comes out! And please buy volume 1 in bookstores if you haven’t!
- Goal: at least 25% savings rate (percentage of money left over after income minus expenses)
- Significantly reduce food purchases. Not groceries. Food.
Well, that’s the end of it. Thank you for reading my income and expense report, folks. How was your 2019 like, financially speaking? What tweaks are you making to incomes and expenses, going forward? Let me know in the comments section!